Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Inspiration and Idea

After going to Burning Man in 2007, I was full of ideas for cool things to do out on the playa. You know - a giant field of grass with lawn furniture that moves on a NASA style rocket mover platform. A miniature railroad circumnavigating the whole City and providing regular passenger service. A hot air balloon tethered to a truck so you can drive it around and a winch to reel it in when you want to change passengers.

These are are still my ideas and are trademarked so don't even *think* about stealing them.

But I don't have a huge budget. I don't live right next to BRC. And I don't know how to weld (yet!). These kinda limited the scope of possible projects.

I started to focus on some sort of stationary art project and I wanted it to be out on the deep playa (which I am particularly fond of). At some point the idea of the Penny Tray came into my head. Maybe I watched Office Space again or something. And turned into the idea that people could change the art project over time. I think the Penny Tray is like Burning Man in microcosm.

First, the very idea of giving so that strangers may benefit. Sure, a penny or two is literally the smallest of change but it is symbolic. You recognize that by giving up a very small part of yourself, you are going to benefit someone else and make the world just a little bit better. Burning Man only works because people are willing to give of themselves. Most people normally think of the artists here and I do greatly appreciate their work. I tend to think instead of the efforts of DPW and other folks (both paid and unpaid) working behind the scenes that are critical to ensure the madness has a stage to play out. So by giving a bit of yourself to this project you are putting your penny in the tray.

Secondly, people need to take from the penny tray. Its function is not to collect change. In the parlance of Office Space, the penny tray is *not* the cripple jar. However you must take from the penny tray in a responsible fashion. You may not take all the change. You should probably not be taking more than 4cents, except in dire straits.

I think this idea extends to Burning Man as well. Everything is freely given (except for coffee and ice!). But this only works when people take what they need, and only what they need. Can you imagine if you offered someone a drink and they said "thanks" and took your whole bottle? But the taking *is* important. I find that it changes your perspective quite a bit and that using cash to buy food feels weird on the first day back in civilization. And there is the obvious taking of the art, music, and usage of the all the infrastructure of BRC. So it is important that people take as well as give to this project because only then does the circle of giving and taking become complete.

The idea as it stands is simple - leave a footlocker full of items out on the playa and encourage people to take something from it and leave something in return. This fits well with the 2009 theme of Evolution. Documenting the changes to the locker over time and at the end of the event will give a nice overview of the piece to live beyond the event itself. And what will be left in the box at the end of the week ? Might be empty. Might be full of trash. I hope it is full of really cool things I can't even imagine.

So now I have an idea that seems doable and inexpensive. What to do next ? Stay tuned for more ....